Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg charter school pleads for the school district to let it stay open

ST. PETERSBURG — It's not often you see high school students cry because they love school so much.

But that was the scene at a Pinellas County School Board meeting Tuesday as the board considered whether to begin the process of shutting down Life Skills, a St. Petersburg charter school with low graduation rates and poor Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores.

"The teachers here, they're amazing," recent graduate Brittany Daignault told the board through tears. "They don't let you stop. Never."

The board voted 7-0 to begin the process of denying renewal for the 5-year-old school, which enrolls students at risk of dropping out. But that process will give Life Skills a couple more chances to plead its case, and to offer an improvement plan.

Board members made no promises. But several told more than 50 Life Skills supporters that they wanted to help the school meet academic thresholds required either by state law or its contract with the district.

"We have to make sure that Life Skills stays on the track you want it to stay on," said board member Mary Brown.

Charter schools are public schools that are given flexibility from many rules in return for more accountability. They're run by organizations outside the school district but can be shut down if they're not financially or academically up to snuff.

Life Skills enrolls 371 students, many of whom struggled in traditional schools. Its charter runs through June 30.

Over the past four years, the school has averaged a 12 percent graduation rate, according to district figures. By contrast, Bayside High School, a district-run school for at-risk students, averaged 37 percent over the same period.

Also, 8 percent of Life Skills students scored at grade level last spring on the FCAT they must pass to earn a standard diploma, compared to 21 percent of students at Bayside.

Supporters said Life Skills is more than its scores.

"They're like my mom and dad. They push me," said student Patrick Williams. Shutting down the school is like "breaking up a happy home."

Concerns about Life Skills are cropping up as the district is rolling out a revamp of its dropout prevention programs. Among the possibilities: Opening two new centers next year for 360 juniors and seniors who need flexible arrangements to recover credits, and converting Bayside into a year-round school with longer days and flexible hours.

The scrutiny also comes as the market for at-risk students is getting crowded. Currently, three charter schools serve those students: Life Skills in St. Petersburg, another Life Skills in Clearwater and Mavericks High in Largo. Another at-risk charter is slated to open in the Kenneth City area this fall, and plans are in the works for a second Mavericks in south Pinellas.

Neither Life Skills principal Phynedra Franklin nor officials at the school's corporate headquarters in Ohio returned calls for comment. White Hat Management operates 36 Life Skills centers in five states, including 10 in Florida.

Ron Matus can be reached at or (727) 893-8873.

St. Petersburg charter school pleads for the school district to let it stay open 03/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 11:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Shakeup on Adam Putnam campaign


    In a sign of unsteadiness for what  had  looked like a strong-out-of-the-gate Adam Putnam campaign, the Republican frontrunner suddenly fired his campaign manager and political director. Hard-charging Campaign manager Kristin Davis and political director Jared Small were two of the three outsiders to join …

    Putnam campaigning in Destin the other day as part of his 22-city bus tour
  2. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  3. Tampa man arrested for killing man in his USF-area home


    TAMPA — A Tampa man was arrested Monday in the death of man found killed at a home in the University of South Florida area last week, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Kadeem Dareem Archibald, 26, was arrested Monday on a  second degree murder charge in the University Area killing of Khando Kerr. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Report: Trump asked intel chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence


    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, the Washington Post reports, citing current and former officials.

    From  left, CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers take their seats on Capitol Hill on May 11 before  testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. [Associated Press]
  5. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”